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Friday, May 29, 2015

Instead of shredding...

I'm sure most people are more organized than I am. It would be hard not to be. It is the bane of my life.

Common wisdom says one should put statements through the shredder. Our shredder went kaput a while ago, PLUS I never could keep up with the shredding. Then I read an organizing book by Susan Pinsky. She has a whole page on why one doesn't need to shred. She says that almost no identity theft is perpetrated through garbage. It is the work of cyber thieves. She does say that--for things with really private information like social security numbers--one can use a thick black marker to obliterate the info, kind of like those redacted documents one sees in the news and on movies.

I just threw out a bunch of stuff, including old retirement account statements. It does make me a bit nervous. And I forgot about the marker trick.

Mr FS to the rescue! He just threw all the papers into an empty garbage can and poured water on them. He's going to stir them into oblivion. This really takes very little time. Much less than shredding.

Just a tip for any messy, overwhelmed, and disorganized types that might be out there. And we don't need to buy another shredder.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

We Heart McDonalds (France only!)

While in France, we don't scoff at McDonalds. In the US we enter a McDonalds perhaps once every three years or so. Make that five years. In Paris though....we are more frequent frequenters. 

In fact, another tip is that as you meander along the streets, keep an eye out for the nearest McDo. Pourquoi? Three reasons: 
1. One euro coffee. Sometimes you don't WANT to sit in a cafe for an hour. The coffee is surprisingly acceptable.
2. Bathrooms with toilet paper. 
3. Free wi-fi (pronounced wee-fee). This is not as critical an issue as it was a few years ago, when our rentals were sometimes without wi-fi. Now many parks have free wi-fi also. 

And guess what? Most of the customers are "real" French people (mostly teenagers) and not tourists. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Caffeine, Chocolate Cookies, and Toilet Paper: Tips for Travelers

More of my humble--very humble--tips. I am a caffeine addict. In Nantes five years ago I had a wee meltdown. We stopped for some mediocre espresso to revive me (Mr FS has a lot of stamina so I drank most of his).

Next time I was on the verge, Mr FS whipped out a surprise: a small baggie of instant coffee. He mixed some in an empty water bottle with the water we always carry and, you know, it was pretty good. It averted the meltdown. He is a genius.

We refined the lifesaver by adding some of the schoolboy (petit ecolier)  cookies you find all over France.* These are a chocolate topped square cookie embossed  with a schoolboy. Caffeine plus a hit of that dark chocolate. Instant revival. 

We sometimes eat them in a quiet corner of the Louvre, breaking the rules. SHHHHH.

Speaking of the Louvre, we always carry some toilet paper. Even in that august institution, one often finds empty toilet paper rolls. Last year, an American woman peered in the stall and lamented the fact that there was NO TOILET PAPER. I gave her some of my stash. She was very admiring of my savvy. 

The gray bathrooms in the streets are often similarly paper-less. Miss Em and I once improved international relations by handing some tp to a Russian woman who spoke no English or French. We also prevented her from entering as we exited, thereby saving her the shock of being sprayed with water by the automatic cleaning. Her rather scary looking male companion got kind of angry at us, but we managed to explain with gestures why she needed to let the door close. 

So my lifesavers are instant coffee, schoolboy cookies, and toilet paper. 

And a question: why is it that in the US the default color for toilet paper is white while in France it is pink? 

*Newsflash! You can get the cookies at Walmart and on Amazon! I don't think I want to eat them outside of France. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dribs and Drabs: Packing for a Trip to Paris and Beyond

I have many big things to think about, the main one being whether I want a now-valuable vacation house when my mother is no more.  My brother does not want it. This simple little house is now worth a good bit--more than a good bit for someone like me--and I am unsure if I can handle the expenses.

Then, like many in my age group, I have to think about retirement: how, what, when, where.

I am one of those little things people. All my savings come not from making super choices in my investments or earning a lot of money but from saving a dollar here, a dollar there on the (too) many consumer goods that come into my life.

To take my mind off the big questions, which are filling me with anxiety, I am thinking about little tiny things that will make my trip to Europe (soon!) a little easier and a little more frugal.

1. One of those under-clothing pouches. We have been using these for years. They cost around $10 at LL Bean. We have been approached by scammers (fake deaf people, the fake gold ring trick) and fondled by people in crowded metros. No worries! We have our pouches! And yes, your tummy pooches out a little, but--guess what?--no one is looking at you.

2. Pantiliners. Aside from their regular uses, I just learned that you can put these in your shoes to absorb sweat! What a great idea.

3. Stick deodorant. I also learned that you can rub cheapo stick deodorant on your feet to prevent rubbing. That way you don't have to buy blister sticks (which are 99% vegetable shortening).

4. Make-Up. I am very low maintenance (i.e. lazy) in the grand scheme of womanhood. Nevertheless, I have amassed many lipsticks and foundations that are 80% used up. All the declutter experts say: throw 'em out. Frugal Me is reluctant to let even some wax and coloring die in vain, so I am putting them in my travel luggage. I will use 'em up in Europe. And, hey, if they have to die in vain, at least they will be in the Eurozone.

5. Books. Mr FS has solved his reading problem. He brings Walden every year and never reads it. I read it last time. I have amassed--thanks to the 25 cent books at the library--a bunch of classics (Austen, Graham Greene, Dickens)  in tiny formats and very bedraggled condition. These are due for re-reading. i will pass them on by stacking them on TOP of the garbage cans so others can take them--this is the Parisian way.

Do you have any tips for dribs and drabs?